Don’t Overrate Barack Obama’s Campaign

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

In the 2008 presidential election, Senator John McCain ran the better campaign.

This statement goes strongly against conventional wisdom. After all, President Barack Obama’s campaign is widely praised by the media for its masterful turn-out operation and other achievements. This is, of course, because Mr. Obama won the election. Winning candidates, by definition, are almost always considered to have run the better campaign. (Quick: name a losing politician who ran a better campaign than his opponent.)

In fact there were two things that propelled Mr. Obama to victory in 2008, and neither of them had to do with his campaign apparatus. The first was the political environment. Mr. Obama had the fortune of running after a two-term unpopular Republican administration. He did this, moreover, in the midst of a financial meltdown for which blame went to said administration. It’s hard to lose an election under those circumstances.

Secondly, Mr. Obama was a more attractive candidate than Mr. McCain. He was younger, he looked better on camera, he gave much better speeches. Mr. Obama had a magnetism that could attract crowds numbering greater than 100,000. His opponent simply didn’t have that.

But Mr. Obama’s campaign itself wasn’t actually that amazing. It was a fairly conservative operation that took things very safe. The campaign tried to be very cautious, avoiding any risky and exciting maneuvers. This happened under the principle that the senator probably was going to win anyways – so a boring, conventional campaign was much safer than a risky, unconventional one. It’s hard to fault his operation for this conclusion, because Mr. Obama did in fact win.

It was Senator John McCain’s campaign that took risks and made headlines. In many ways his campaign was better than Mr. Obama’s. It won more of the daily media battles until the financial crisis – and there was nothing it could really do about that. It ran better ads. How many Obama ads do you remember, for instance? What about McCain ads? I bet a lot of people remember this one.

Mr. McCain’s campaign also made the more memorable moves. It selected an unforgettable Vice Presidential nominee (in contrast, Mr. Obama once again took the safe route in picking Senator Joe Biden). It famously promised to suspend its campaign in the midst of the financial meltdown. Some of these moves worked; some of them didn’t. But they were very rational moves to take; there was simply no way Mr. McCain could have won in 2008 without taking enormous, risky gambles.

Mr. Obama’s campaign is widely credited for bringing many young and African-American voters to the polls who otherwise wouldn’t have shown up. But those voters came not because of the campaign, but because of Mr. Obama himself. If the entire campaign operation had remained the same, but Senator Barack Obama had been replaced by Senator John Kerry, how many of those people would have shown up?

The moral of this analysis is not to overrate the Obama campaign. There was a Democratic wave in 2008, and Mr. Obama’s campaign deserves credit for riding that wave with the help of a very gifted politician. But to say that ”Obama put together one of the most impressive campaign operations of all time” is a big exaggeration.

 

 

Don’t Overrate Barack Obama’s Campaign

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

In the 2008 presidential election, Senator John McCain ran the better campaign.

This statement goes strongly against conventional wisdom. After all, President Barack Obama’s campaign is widely praised by the media for its masterful turn-out operation and other achievements. This is, of course, because Mr. Obama won the election. Winning candidates, by definition, are almost always considered to have run the better campaign. (Quick: name a losing politician who ran a better campaign than his opponent.)

In fact there were two things that propelled Mr. Obama to victory in 2008, and neither of them had to do with his campaign apparatus. The first was the political environment. Mr. Obama had the fortune of running after a two-term unpopular Republican administration. He did this, moreover, in the midst of a financial meltdown for which blame went to said administration. It’s hard to lose an election under those circumstances.

Secondly, Mr. Obama was a more attractive candidate than Mr. McCain. He was younger, he looked better on camera, he gave much better speeches. Mr. Obama had a magnetism that could attract crowds numbering greater than 100,000. His opponent simply didn’t have that.

But Mr. Obama’s campaign itself wasn’t actually that amazing. It was a fairly conservative operation that took things very safe. The campaign tried to be very cautious, avoiding any risky and exciting maneuvers. This happened under the principle that the senator probably was going to win anyways – so a boring, conventional campaign was much safer than a risky, unconventional one. It’s hard to fault his operation for this conclusion, because Mr. Obama did in fact win.

It was Senator John McCain’s campaign that took risks and made headlines. In many ways his campaign was better than Mr. Obama’s. It won more of the daily media battles until the financial crisis – and there was nothing it could really do about that. It ran better ads. How many Obama ads do you remember, for instance? What about McCain ads? I bet a lot of people remember this one.

Mr. McCain’s campaign also made the more memorable moves. It selected an unforgettable Vice Presidential nominee (in contrast, Mr. Obama once again took the safe route in picking Senator Joe Biden). It famously promised to suspend its campaign in the midst of the financial meltdown. Some of these moves worked; some of them didn’t. But they were very rational moves to take; there was simply no way Mr. McCain could have won in 2008 without taking enormous, risky gambles.

Mr. Obama’s campaign is widely credited for bringing many young and African-American voters to the polls who otherwise wouldn’t have shown up. But those voters came not because of the campaign, but because of Mr. Obama himself. If the entire campaign operation had remained the same, but Senator Barack Obama had been replaced by Senator John Kerry, how many of those people would have shown up?

The moral of this analysis is not to overrate the Obama campaign. There was a Democratic wave in 2008, and Mr. Obama’s campaign deserves credit for riding that wave with the help of a very gifted politician. But to say that ”Obama put together one of the most impressive campaign operations of all time” is a big exaggeration.

 

 

Analyzing Obama’s Weak Spots – Part 3: Appalachia, South Central and the 2010 Midterms

This is the final part of three posts analyzing the congressional districts President Barack Obama underperformed in. It will focus on the movement in Appalachia and the South Central United States. The previous parts can be found starting here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The 2010 Midterms

Let’s take one last look at those districts in which Mr. Obama did worse than Senator John Kerry:

Map of Districts in Which Kerry Did Better Than Obama

One sees again, as clear as ever, the diagonal pattern of Republican movement in South Central America and the Appalachians.

These districts differ from the northeastern and Florida-based regions examined in the previous post. Unlike those congressional districts, the districts in South Central and Appalachia vote strongly Republican. Many of them were never much loyal to the Democrats in the first place; those that did vote Democratic generally stopped doing so after President Bill Clinton left the ticket.

Nevertheless, a number of these South Central and Appalachian districts are still represented by Democratic congressmen. This is readily apparent if one looks at a list of congressional districts in which Mr. Obama underperformed Mr. Kerry:

List of Congressional Districts

There are a surprisingly high number of Democrats on this list.  As one might expect, the Democratic-voting districts all elect Democrats (except, ironically, for the most Democratic one). Yet more than half of the Republican-voting districts on the list also are represented by Democrats.

That is actually an amazing statistic. These are places in Appalachia and South Central which are already voting Republican, which are fast becoming even more Republican, and which are electing Democratic congressmen.

For Democrats, congressional districts like these constitute ticking time bombs. They will be the first to fall in a Republican wave. There is literally no way the party can continue holding the majority of seats in Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

And 2010 looks like a Republican wave year. Democratic-controlled districts in Appalachia and South Central are in deep trouble already:

Table of Troubled Districts

In congressional districts that vote Republican and are becoming Republican, only half the Democratic incumbents are running again. The open seats will likely elect Republican representatives this fall, even in the best forseeable Democratic environment.

One does not have to wait until November to test if this is true, however. On May 18th Pennsylvania will hold a special election for a new representative of the 12th congressional district, after incumbent John Murtha’s death:

Map of PA-12


Like many Democratic representatives in South Central and Appalachia, Mr. Murtha constituted a relic of an earlier time – when southwest Pennsylvania voted Democratic. His continued re-elections were due to his personal popularity and the power of incumbency, even as his district moved more and more Republican.

It will be a minor miracle if Democratic candidate Mark Critz wins. No Democratic candidate has ever done better than Mr. Obama since his election. Mr. Critz will have to do that, given that the president lost PA-12 (the only seat in the nation to support Kerry and the McCain). In a district with double-digit disapproval ratings of Mr. Obama, this constitutes an arduous task.

It is the same task that awaits more than a dozen Democrats in Appalachia and South Central America come November 2010.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Analyzing Obama’s Weak Spots – Part 1

This is the first part of three posts analyzing the congressional districts President Barack Obama underperformed in. The second part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Congressional Districts

By most accounts, Senator Barack Obama dominated the 2008 presidential election. He won an electoral landslide, winning Republican-leaning states such as Indiana and North Carolina which his campaign targeted. Compared to 2004, the nation shifted almost ten points more Democratic.

Mr. Obama improved from Senator John Kerry’s performance almost everywhere. He did better in the vast majority of counties and 45 out of 50 states (by margin). As for congressional districts: more than 90% of them voted more Democratic than in 2004.

Yet this means that at least several dozen congressional districts were more friendly to Mr. Kerry than the Illinois Senator. Using the amazing information found on swingstateproject and Dave Leip’s election atlas, I have mapped these districts below:

Map of Districts in Which Kerry Did Better Than Obama

There is a clear pattern here: Republican-shifting congressional districts are found along a diagonal line stretching from Louisiana and Oklahoma to southeastern Pennsylvania, roughly along the Appalachian mountains. This is not exactly startling news; ever since the primaries, Mr. Obama’s weakness in these regions has been well-noted. The five states that shifted Republican from 2004 – Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia – are all located here.

The exceptions to this pattern, however, constitute items of considerable interest. Some of these have fairly simple explanations. Arizona’s 1st district voted more Republican, for instance, mainly because Arizona was Senator John McCain’s home state.

Other districts, however, go against commonly-held political wisdom. Take LA-2: a black-majority, inner-city district located in New Orleans (represented, ironically, by Republican congressman Joseph Cao). While LA-2 strongly supported Mr. Obama, black depopulation in the aftermath of Katrina made this support less than that in 2004.

Another example can be found in the northeast:

Map of Northeast Districts

Republicans do better in five Massachusetts districts and one New York district.

This movement stands in contrast to the narrative of Democratic dominance in the northeast. Most in the beltway have ignored this trend, or dismissed it as simply the loss of Mr. Kerry’s home-state advantage. Whether this is true or not, there is quite a lot of interesting stuff to be said on these districts. The next post will be devoted solely to exploring this pattern.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Analyzing Obama’s Weak Spots – Part 1

This is the first part of three posts analyzing the congressional districts President Barack Obama underperformed in. The second part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Congressional Districts

By most accounts, Senator Barack Obama dominated the 2008 presidential election. He won an electoral landslide, winning Republican-leaning states such as Indiana and North Carolina which his campaign targeted. Compared to 2004, the nation shifted almost ten points more Democratic.

Mr. Obama improved from Senator John Kerry’s performance almost everywhere. He did better in the vast majority of counties and 45 out of 50 states (by margin). As for congressional districts: more than 90% of them voted more Democratic than in 2004.

Yet this means that at least several dozen congressional districts were more friendly to Mr. Kerry than the Illinois Senator. Using the amazing information found on swingstateproject and Dave Leip’s election atlas, I have mapped these districts below:

Map of Districts in Which Kerry Did Better Than Obama

There is a clear pattern here: Republican-shifting congressional districts are found along a diagonal line stretching from Louisiana and Oklahoma to southeastern Pennsylvania, roughly along the Appalachian mountains. This is not exactly startling news; ever since the primaries, Mr. Obama’s weakness in these regions has been well-noted. The five states that shifted Republican from 2004 – Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia – are all located here.

The exceptions to this pattern, however, constitute items of considerable interest. Some of these have fairly simple explanations. Arizona’s 1st district voted more Republican, for instance, mainly because Arizona was Senator John McCain’s home state.

Other districts, however, go against commonly-held political wisdom. Take LA-2: a black-majority, inner-city district located in New Orleans (represented, ironically, by Republican congressman Joseph Cao). While LA-2 strongly supported Mr. Obama, black depopulation in the aftermath of Katrina made this support less than that in 2004.

Another example can be found in the northeast:

Map of Northeast Districts

Republicans do better in five Massachusetts districts and one New York district.

This movement stands in contrast to the narrative of Democratic dominance in the northeast. Most in the beltway have ignored this trend, or dismissed it as simply the loss of Mr. Kerry’s home-state advantage. Whether this is true or not, there is quite a lot of interesting stuff to be said on these districts. The next post will be devoted solely to exploring this pattern.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

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